Hot Cocoa On The Road

Grab someone in the room and read this out loud.

Trust me.

How to make Ducky’s “Hot Cocoa On The Road”

Necessary items:

Small camp stove

Brown Sugar



Sugar in the raw

Goat’s milk

Unsweetened cocoa



Excellent animal identification skills

Foul language

Just a few quick and easy steps!

First, lay out the ingredients in the order you fantasize you will be using them in. Light the camp stove’s burner and put the kettle on. Pour small ammt. of milk or cream into a mug. (About a fifth or so.)

Relight burner due to wind.

Second step: Go chase the Stellar’s Jay away from the opposite end of the table. This usually involves waving a dishtowel and yelling. Upon success, drop dishtowel triumphantly without realizing it’s landed into a bit of this morning’s oatmeal.

Return to stove, relight burner due to wind.

Third step: pour a small amount of salt into the milk. Stop to chase after a squirrel who is making off with the dishrag that now smells enticingly like Apples & Cinnamon. Retrieve towel, glare at squirre l, throw it into soapy water. (The towel that is, not the squirrel. Park service doesn’t really go for that kind of thing.)

Return to stove, curse, relight burner due to wind.

Fourth step: Realize one or more of the items above is missing. Turn the burner off, fetch item(s), return to table, relight burner and discover (The Damn) wind has deposited pine needles in cup. Pour milk and foliage out, restore original settings, and COVER THE FREAKING MUG.

Return to stove, curse, contemplate getting cheap swiss miss packets next grocery run, relight burner due to wind.

Burner goes out immediately.

Relight. With prayer this time.

Flames start to waver.

Stand while desperately cupping hands around the HOT burner in attempt to keep it lit.


Give up on prayer and go back to cursing.

Fifth (?) step: Have a “Really Good Idea.” Grab two large water containers and the cooler strategically placing them in a protective barrier around the burner and kettle. Use your body for the fourth point and stand in a sentinel position until the water boils.  When it does boil, do a happy dance with a battle cry while flipping off the sky. Lose three dishtowels to a sudden gust of wind.


Fifth step, (pt.2): Pick up muddy dishtowels and plop them next to the fire to dry (or burn up. Whatever, at this point.) Run back and quickly add salt, (measurements? You think we use MEASUREMENTS? *hysterical laughter*) somewhere between ½ teaspoon or ½ a tablespoon, depending on how upset you are at this point.

Sixth step: Pour boiling water in. Nearly burn yourself realizing that one of the dishtowels was to be used for the kettle. Run and get a dishtowel from area next to firepit, shake off ash frantically while running back to table.

Realize ash has fallen in the cup. Decide it’s either fiber or protein and proceed.

Seventh, eighth, and ninth steps: Add about a tablespoon of hot cocoa. Actually less. Okay, truthfully I’ve no idea; we use an old Menchies’ FroYo spoon so whatever one of those heaped comes to.

Start stirring frantically.

If the cocoa starts to blend, add cinnamon, allspice, sugar, and splenda. If not keep stirring while swearing and attempting to open the brown sugar one handed.

Note: opening things one handed never goes well.

Tenth step: Finish hot cocoa and look at the mess that was once the table. Add any of the ingredients that you have no doubt forgotten. Wonder if the “no crumb” #Fail you have accomplished is enough to get you banned from your beloved state parks.

Call out in your cheeriest voice, “Ducky! Hot Cocoa’s ready!”

Try not to kill offspring when he says, “I think this need more sweetener. It’s also a little cold. Do we have any whipped cream?”

Quietly chant to self, “I love camping, I love camping, I love camping…”


Yellow Jackets: A Guide on How (NOT) To Dispose of Them Pt. 2

Febreze. Yellow Jackets. Attitude Problem.

There I was, bottle of Febreze in hand, wearing tight jeans and 3-inch-heeled boots.  (I’d decided to dress up, makeup and everything, with a plan of trying my hand at the casino. Needless to say that never happened.)

It was around 11am at this point, I still hadn’t had tea, the ice in the cooler had melted, our food was likely to spoil, I had no extra money for chow, and Ducky hadn’t done his homework.

I was at my breaking point.

A paramedic truck pulled up a few spaces over in the Safeway parking lot and I thought, “Great! If I get stung to death, they can revive me.” I had a vague idea that the DYJs might not like strong odors. After all, the incense had been such a success at chasing one away, all I needed was a strong smell, right? I hopped up on my step stool, (immediately realizing that I was not wearing the appropriate footwear for this venture,) and wobbled about aiming the ‘Gain Fresh Scent Fabric Refresher’ at the top of the door crevices while thinking, “This is a TERRIBLE idea.” (Please note: Procter & Gamble would likely appreciate me mentioning that at no point in time did they recommend this as an approve usage for their product.)

After the first few sprays, I noticed that yes, indeed the yellow jackets were reacting to the stuff, they clearly had an opinion on it and that opinion was “Hey, this stuff smells GREAT, bring it on!”

No, no, no, no, no, no, this was not part of the plan.

If I were religious I’d have been praying at this point.

Since I’m not I just got down to business.

The bugs that liked the perfume weren’t actually coming close to the spray, just around the air where I’d been aiming. So, I turned up the level to “douse” and really started to drown the top of the rig.

Now that garnered the reaction I was looking for. The DYJs were on the run! They were leaving! They were… Heading right for the one window that was somehow inadvertently left open!


Much Rage, much Nope, much ‘eff it’.

Once again I threw open all the doors. This time with additional yelling! “This is my van, get out! GET OUT!” Ducky was wisely across the parking lot refilling the cooler at this point, which seemed to take much longer than normal. Go, him.

I lunged into the van like a Space Marine in Aliens. I used nearly A THIRD of the bottle of yellow jacket death.

Finally they were all out. The van smelled like a laundromat at the end-of-day but by golly, I had gotten them all. I was certain. Just in case, we drove away with all the windows down creating a wind-vortex in the back that was rather colorful considering all our scarves, bandanas, towels, and mexican blankets were whipping around like flags during a hurricane.

We arrived back and I felt so much relief! We walked down to the bathrooms, chatting happily about dead bugs, Pokemon, and redwood trees. Then I saw a woman getting out of her car. She was dancing. No, she was hopping. Wait she was… I knew those moves.

She was being chased and was essentially freaking out with style.

There were at least six of the little bastards after all.

Turns out they weren’t in the van at all. After talking with a local security guard, we discovered that the construction team up the hill had “riled some groups up fierce” and “we’re doing everything we can, call us if you’re stuck and we’ll send maintenance to shoo them away.”

Call someone for help. What a concept.

Woke up this morning and remembered that I had seen one of the DYJs sneak into my tea drawer during the deathmatch the day before. I slowly thought I’d forgotten to check in there. I realized this right about the time the buzzing I’d half registered made it quite apparent that the little bastard had made it back out and was right over my head.

“Ducky!” I hissed, “There’s one in the van!” Ducky didn’t even need to ask ‘one what,’ he merely rolled over, pulled the sleeping bag over his head and announced, “I’ll sleep ’till it leaves.”

I gathered up what I could, said goodbye forever to the boondocking site and pulled out at a nice fast clip. Goodbye and good riddance!

It’s important to note that the only casualties of this event were our doormat, trash stuff sack, and about 25 yellow jackets. The foremost two were abandoned during the “we are leaving moment!” and the latter all Murdered By Febreze.

Always keep some Febreze handy. Also remember to ask for help when needed. And don’t try to tackle yellow jackets with just Febreze unless you’ve had your tea first. You might come up with a better idea, after.






Yellow Jackets: A Guide on How (NOT) To Dispose of Them Pt. 1

Sometimes all you need to get rid of yellow jackets is a bottle of Febreze and an attitude problem.

This wasn’t one of those times.

Last night we pulled in and tried to make dinner. A group of yellow jackets seemed to be intent on making us miserable. I wish this was something out of the ordinary, but after this week it seems pretty much par for the course.

After leaving Samuel P. Taylor State Park on Tuesday, spending one night in an RV park we won’t name (but will write about in great depth later,) that evening, we arrived at our current boondocking site Thursday afternoon. We had noticed at our first campsite that yellow jackets were quite the issue. Many a meal was interrupted while we attempted to remain cool, calm and collected.  We usually took advantage of our mutual decision to eat with one leg swung over the bench of the picnic table. This aided in an easier getaways. It worked as long as one was careful to not spill any food while half-gracefully lunging up and over.

After leaving the S.P. Taylor campsite we really didn’t give the Damn Yellow Jackets, or “DYJs,” another thought.  We were too busy raving about the wonders and beauty we had seen.  

Upon arriving at the RV campsite (still to be unnamed, but yes, written about later,) we settled in for dinner and discovered that this site also seemed to be overrun with the little buggers. “It’s the DYJs!” We lamented, “must be a local thing.” We were completely resigned to our lot. After all, it was clearly a regional issue.

It didn’t occur to us to wonder why no one else in the area seemed to be similarly plagued.

Thursday evening we lit all the incense we had and had only one problem guest show up, quickly dispersed with a stick of “Chillin’ Cool Booty Call.” (Ducky calls it “Inappropriately Named Incense.”)

Yesterday morning we awoke and headed down for a semi-hidden local beach day. We headed out first thing, not bothering to open up the van or do anything in the space where we’d parked. I had decided the night previous we would do everything down at the beach, including tea, & bathroom stuff.  (This process would have been much easier had the beach we chose had had the picnic tables and bathrooms I had envisioned.) Our relocation however garnered us no relief. As soon as we opened the doors of the van the DYJs showed up and they were starting to have some serious attitude. Like, landing on my hat, going for my hair, and dive bombing us attitude. But no matter, it was a lovely day, we spend most of it outside and we were excited to be doing some further stealth camping that evening. We again failed to notice no one else seemed to have so many DYJs attempting to drive them mad. That realization came this morning.

Upon waking up today, we were both jazzed to be heading over to collect some books we had placed on hold. We followed our tradition of hitting the “Friends of the Library” bookshop. And selected books to further Ducky’s studies in biology, physics, and history.

My parking lot plans of making tea, having a snack, and heating the dogs food however all were quickly squashed by the sudden assault of numerous DYJs who were done mucking about- they had decided to evict us.

I have now decided that I have a clear line of escalation when it comes to dealing with incessant insects with stingers:

One DYJ: “Ducky honey? Remain calm & it won’t bother you. You can gently wave your hand and shoo it away.” (Thinking, Good job self, remember how this would have freaked us out as a kid? Go me!)

Two DYJs: “Okay, sweetie, stay calm, perhaps no waving this time. It’s okay.” (Still doing great there, momma, keep it up!)

Three DYJs: “Right. There do seem to be a more of them now. Definitely no hand waving, ‘kay?” (Ugh, I am glad I’m staying calm. I am staying calm… Right?)

Four DYJs: “Hon? Okay, let’s try walking away calmly, don’t run or they will chase us.” (It’s becoming rather hard to stay calm, my heart is pounding and my palms are sweaty- am I breathing funny?)

Five DYJs: “Omg. That’s my hair, is it still there? Oh. It’s on my hat? Okay. It’s okay honey, it’s okay, it’s okay…” (OMG, my hair, OMG, my hat, OMG, did he say it’s on my shoulder? This is NOT okay, THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!)

And at Six DYJs: “FTS!!! DUCKY THROW THE DOG IN THE VAN- WE ARE LEAVING!!!!” Mind you this last bit accompanied the last of any dignity I had left due to my running around the van in circles, screaming and waving my hat around like a clown at a rodeo.

The other folk in the lot sure did look at us funny. Especially since we squealed out, slammed to a stop, hopped out to throw open all the doors and then repeated the process. Twice. At one point we had to sit in the van with a DYJ buzzing in between us and do nothing since there were three or four sentries waiting for us outside the windows.

Exiting the parking lot at a clip slightly over the posted speed limit of 7MPH, I headed south on the highway. I did this without any particular destination in mind, I was more interested in gaining as much speed as possible. In my caffeine-deprived, adrenaline fueled state I believed that outrunning them was the best plan of action.  In fact it was the only plan I could come up with and I went for it with the enthusiasm of someone who needs to find Jesus and thinks he’s just up the road a ways.

Ducky kept his head, remembered we needed ice, and  navigated us to a local market. We got out, headed to the bathrooms, got the ice and started to organize the chaos that our sudden departure had created. (Note to self, when pulling out while being chased by angry Vespidae, make sure not to have any open containers or loose items on the counter.)  I was ready, so ready, to make a cup of damn tea. We were replacing the ice in the cooler and three showed up.

It finally hit me: They were IN the damn van.

In, as in “building a nest in.”

I groaned a long sad desperate sounding, “Oh Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittt.”

“What’s wrong?” Ducky asked looking at me in the way you look at the person in the library who suddenly shouts profanities and then asks for money. Perhaps if I had had a cuppa and some food, (not to mention a calmer morning,) I could have been a thoughtful, protective mommy and lied to him. Instead I said, “They’re in the van! They’re IN the VAN!” Pretty sure I was half wailing at this point.

It took a moment but Ducky’s eyes indicated he had grasped the gist as did his body language. And by language I mean the fact that his body was moving away from the van, shuddering and giving the interpretive-dance version of NOPE.

I did what every sane, rational person does when faced with situations such as this. I Googled the hell out of “yellow jacket nest in van.”

I learned a lot.
Most of which didn’t help me in the moment.

I told Ducky that this evening we will be putting on our hoodies gloves bandanas and long sleeved shirts, jeans and boots and emptying the van to find point of entries.

I told him that while pulling out my step-stool and grabbing the Febreze while thinking, “This is MY van. My van.”

End pt. 1



From Camping to Glamping

From camping to glamping #vanlife style.

Monday we left our $10 a night state campground and headed up north to Monterey/Santa Cruz. We are at our favorite brand of spoil-you-rotten campsites; KOA. We’ve never been to this location and are excited to find it to be pretty and spacious. The birdlife here is shaping up to be something spectacular and we are pretty stoked about it.

After a day of driving through 100 degree heat, then odd bursts of cold, and finally a sudden thunderstorm that hit us with Texas attitude, we arrived in a city. Yup, a city. I was so disappointed. I tried to be positive but I was really disheartened by the mass urbanity until suddenly… it was no longer there. We took a left and the road started to become more and more narrow taking us into a lush, green, rich space that felt mildly closed like a good forest should.

We were eagerly looking forward to dinner & a shower after a brief exploration of the campground. Specifically the giant bouncy jumper thingie.

Everyone wants to play on a giant bouncy jumper thingie.

We wandered about checking out the play area, pool, kids zone, dog run, and mini-golf. Then we looked up.

The storm followed us.

Huge flashes of lightning were followed instantly with thunder that started with long crackling buildups ending in soul-shattering booms. One was so close it left our ears ringing.

We had barely enough time to throw our setup back into the van and then stare out the window glaring at the weather.

Dinner was cold sandwiches and soda.

Tuesday was much better. Relatively speaking. Ducky and I went and got firewood preparing to have a mean marshmallow roast.  We took Princess to the doggy play area and tossed her ball for about an hour. Next we checked out the climbing wall, camp fun-train (free & goes around the entire upper site,) and the arcade. (After which we were down $5 and all we had to show for it was a plastic finger puppet and toy dinosaur.)  A heated game of ping-pong was on until we lost our ball and decided it was time to finally play mini golf.  We’d already been to the office and rented mini golf clubs for a buck each. 

Oh, but first we decided on a quick trip to the log hop. Upon our arrival I turned to go up and heard a huge scrape-crash-blam from behind me.  Ducky had somehow managed to attack the course and fall at the first stump.

He was gashed up ALL the way down his left leg. He was fine until I had him lift his shorts to get an idea as to the extent of the damage. At the sight of multiple (multitudes of, really,) blood droplets, he decided a quick squall was called for. Can’t say I blame him. He needed his 60 seconds of crying so we could get to the fun stuff that I was still sort of certain we were going to do. After 60 seconds turned to 90 I had to physically restrain myself from blurting out years of BS society has drummed into my head. “Oh, come on you’re a big guy, this is no big thing,” “Come on, buck up, hurry up, let’s get past this…” I was able to just hold him and say, “Yup, it sucks, get it out so you can get to what you want to be doing.” (We both find this matter of fact approach comforting and it gets the feels over quicker without him how to respond.) Finally I grew concerned. This is an “even year” which means we are due a broken bone. So I asked, “Okay buddy, I need to know: Golf still on?”

With gritted teeth and a growl Ducky pronounced, “YES.”

“Okay well we have to get that ish cleaned up. The sand you landed in is beach stuff which means it’s composed largely of sodium chloride. I’d imagine it’s stinging like a mother-trucker ‘bout now. I know you don’t want to take the time to head all the way back to the van… Oh! I know.”

“What?” Ducky asked in trepidation.

In an area of the doggy play space there is an honest-to-god full canine shower. In what can only be excused as a moment of mother lunacy, I dragged Ducky over to said bathing area, had him hike his shorts up and sprayed him down with the hose attached to a giant cartoon Rover. There was even a little leftover soap from who-knows-what-I-probably-don’t-want-to.

We then played mini-golf. Ducky looked pretty damn hilarious when walking around the little green holding his shorts off his left leg but he still managed to play a mean game. He walked out saying “worth it” and “magic spray* now please.” He hobbled over to a bench while I went and fetched peroxide, neosporin, and as requested *Dermoplast.

All smiles thanks to the Magic Spray!

His leg looks amazing now. It’s developing bruises and the bright red scrapes combined with the green splotches make him look like a Christmas tree designed by Salvador Dali.

We went to bed after roasting marshmallows and watching the bats play. The next day was a huge day after all.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium. As done by Buggy & Ducky.

There were Jelly Bellies. Everybody wants Jelly Bellies.

Back Out Here

Campground #1 of ?

There are a pair of birds of prey that in spite of my desperate lunges atop, and at one point nearly OFF our bluff, I am still unable to identify. Mind you this is with both bird book & binoculars in hand (which kinda explains the nearly falling off the hill bit.)  I do know for certain they they are predators. The biggest indicator of this is the local crows. They have made it abundantly clear with an avian rendition of “get the hell of my lawn.” Sorry, “out of my sky.” It’s the same routine I have witnessed hundreds of times off my mother’s balcony only in this case the hawks (?) are white, not red tailed and the crows fewer in number.

The calls of crows are universal but the ones they’re chasing  have a different cry than the ones I’m accustomed to. The Red Tailed Hawk cry (Also called the “Hollywood Bird Cry” by Ducky since that is used universally for every bird in every movie ever made,) is a classic scree-scree-screee. These newbies have a small sharp squawk like a red tailed who keeps getting cut off by an impatient family member when trying to speak.

We have an amazing view of evergreens the bottom of which there is an unseen marsh. Rabbits and quail are here in abundance, both scrub jays and blue jays, the aforementioned crows and gorgeous western bluebirds.

There is a large pine of some sort in our site, branches sparse with nearly no needles left but dropping due to the hundreds of large pinecones weighting things down.

(Maybe the birds are Cooper’s Hawks? They are kind of whitish.)

I have resolutely turned my back to the expanse behind me trying to let got of the idea that I’m ever going to find out what these damn hawks (falcons?) are.

The air is fresh and bracing. The dog has appropriated my chair and is dozing from a height she can’t get up or down on her own. The sounds of the ocean can be heard and I keep having to grab at my hat for fear of one of the small gusts of wind stealing it away from me.

One of the damn crows stole a cap to one of our telescoping marshmallow toasters. (Google it, they are totally a Thing.)

We made easy friends last night with a group of campers who had caravanned down from the Bay area. We had a mutual love of fog which was good because the evenings roll it in like a blanket and in the morning it gives way like a grumpy teen being told to get out of bed. The blankets eventually come off and the landscape becomes awash in sunlight.

Dammit. My hat. *whoosh!

Okay, back now.

Let’s not discuss the fact that  I am pretty sure while hunting down my signature headgear, I just scared the heck out of my neighbors (hey, they’re packing up to leave anyway,) stumbled too close to a bunny, and may or may not have nearly twisted my ankle at the entrance to a ground squirrel’s lair.

I’m out of practice at this.

Plunking myself down to write again, (now, just do it, come on,) there are California towhees in the bushes in front of my table. Their scrabbling about sounds like a town meeting is taking place in there though there are only two of them.

The wind gusts are picking up and I’m going to have to secure our chairs and put out the fire that has been burning since 8:30 (“That’s some good wood there,” the campground host told us last night, “$10 a wheelbarrow, return the barrow when you can.”)

It’s now nearly 11am, Ducky is still asleep and I’m loathe to wake him enjoying having so much quiet time to myself.

A wasp just landed on my bottle. Time to go.

Scary Day

Shortly after we snapped the pic above, we were assaulted by a local mentally ill woman. We had gone to a local beach to pack up the rig for our next leg of the journey. I had parked at this same beach a couple of times before finding it a good spot to use. The waves and fresh air seemed to aid in the bizarrely exact process of figuring out just where that last can of dog food is going to fit.

After walking the dog and exploring the beach we had returned and were stacking boxes next to the side doors. The back doors of were also open with the step stool set between making getting in and out much easier.

I had been concerned that we might block traffic since the doors and stool did stick out a bit. An inexperienced driver in a big vehicle might have a problem so I was aware and listening for big engines, or even a “hello” yell.

Instead I heard the sound of our sturdy metal and wood stool being hurled across the parking lot.  A torrent of verbal abuse came in accompaniment. My thoughts of this being a case of road rage swiftly faded as the rant became so vile and profanity laden I was dumbstruck for a moment.

Lord knows I cuss but this was something entirely different.

Refocusing on just what the hell was happening, (this was only the first 3 seconds or so,) I looked for the source of the ruckus and found a deeply weather-beaten face contorted into a roaring maw. Whatever monsters this woman was seeing in place of us filled her with more anger than one body could hold. The wrath oozed from her pores and nearly had a scent. It was horrific to witness.

One of my personal mottos is; I fight well but I don’t fight crazy. Had she simply been an angry driver, freaking out that I was blocking the way. I would likely have been able to handle it. The look on her face told me immediately that there was no recourse. None of the three D’s were going to work here. (Deescalate, Defuse, Defend.) There was nobody present to parley with; the part that was running things only saw demons.

Realizing that I was dealing with stone cold nuts,  I ordered Ducky to get in the van, call 911 & lock the doors. This came out something like, “In NOW, Call 911, lock doors, GO.”

I blocked her bodily as she was working her way around me to get to him. She was talking to him in a wheedling tone, “Oh no honey you don’t have to do that…” I tried to make eye contact and give her the back off vibe but there was nothing I could make eye contact with. I felt the presence of danger and realized this was a fight I couldn’t win.

About ten to fifteen seconds had passed at this point. People were walking their dogs, gulls were keening, and fierce winds buffeted us. There were palm trees above us, outlined by famous SoCal blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it.

After a bit of misdirection I hopped in the van, taking over the call and giving up on the fantasy of grabbing the rest of our things outside. I wanted my stool. I was obsessed with my stool. Then I saw her lunge. Okay, forget the stool.

Once I was in, she paced near the van like a tiger. After a few final declarations, “Yeah, you call the police, you call them, I AM THE POLICE!!” she moved a little further away. We could see her shredding papers, cackling and hooting while blessedly out of earshot.

Dispatch was a little slow, the area falls under harbor patrol jurisdiction and it took a little explaining that we were actually IN the van and couldn’t leave because our stuff was all over. “Do you want us to send someone out?” UM YEAH YA THINK? “Yes, please, that would be great.” Is what I recall actually saying.

After what seemed like forever I was able to open the doors and grab the rest of our things. Harbor Patrol eventually showed up and took down a report. They sounded like they knew who she was and that made me a little sad. I say eventually but it was likely only a few minutes. Time gets sticky when we’re under duress.

Ducky handled it like a trooper. While driving away, we talked about how mental illness works, and how it affects so many of us. We spoke about how being members of the neurodivergent community ourselves we sympathise and respect the sufferer while also understanding that there are boundaries that are not to be messed with. He said he wondered who or what she saw when she looked at us. We agreed it’s probably best we don’t know.

He didn’t fall apart until we got home.

Earlier tonight I got separate calls from both the Harbor Patrol & the local PD. The woman has been arrested and is in jail. They wanted to know if any of our property was damaged and I told them, no, our vehicle is a tank and the stepstool is hospital grade.

I got off the last call with a big sigh of relief.

Tomorrow we leave for San Simeon. We will finish packing in the morning, (bleah) get a later start than I want, (of course,) gripe and fight and argue and eventually get to our campsite.

Then we will make a fire. We will buy firewood for three days, get the pots and pans out, cook over the open flames and look at the stars. The waves will lull us to sleep, the fresh air will awaken our senses and we will talk quietly into the night.


I know this is my first blog post in a while, there are many in the shoot, but I have had trouble producing. This one sort of burst forth. I feel it’s important to mention that in spite of my mocking tone, I don’t feel many degrees removed from those who suffer so horrifically from mental illness. As someone who has racked up enough frequent flyer miles in psych wards to fly to London, I often find myself bemused when I run into someone so out of control. I use a lot of humor to combat this. Our illness is sneaky and a liar and sometimes the only way to shame a liar is to tell the truth in mocking tone. I think that’s why so many comedians have such huge amounts of followers. They’re the only ones telling the truth these days.




Sunrise At Anza-Borrego

I set an alarm for just before sunrise. I’d envisioned us rolling out of the van, bundled in layers, setting up our folding chairs and then settling in for the display. I pictured gloved hands clasping hot drinks, cheeks red with cold, noses peeking out from scarves. However, before I could share my idea, Ducky pointed out we could simply throw open the side bay doors and take in the view from there.

Brilliant child.

Huddled in our sleeping bags, me up on the bench seat and Ducky on the floor with the dog, we watched as the sky began to gently branch out with faint pale yellows. The soft rays playfully wove themselves within dull grey clouds, transforming dull eggshell sky into wakeful robin blue.

There came a burst of gold. A bridal train of bold rose accompanied the surreal glow, symbolizing a marriage of light and shadow over the desert. An unequal union: the former was clearly dominant, pushing out the latter like a shrewish housewife.

These bright shades quickly faded to a dusky pink, tangerine and sunflower hues gentling into smoke and ivory. The atmosphere again settled to dun and the landscape faded to a winter palette of olive and brown. Not a hint remained of the show we had witnessed.

Ducky went back to sleep. I stayed awake, determined to get coffee using the last few gasps of my propane-fueled mini stove. There was much pleading. “Come on just get the water to a boil and then die!”

My instant coffee was prepared with semi-hot water, questionably spoiling milk, and buckets of raw sugar to mask the taste.

I sat at our table (what would turn out to be the second of three separate campsites during our stay,) and watched as a jackrabbit hopped by barely six feet away.

He paused in front of me, and we had a moment. “Are you a predator?” “Yes. But a fat, lazy, industrialized one.” He clearly considered me harmless and hopped away languorously.

After he moved out to sight, there came a moment here of near-perfect stillness. The only sound I could hear was from a bloke making his morning brew a few sites away. I glanced over and he nodded, clearly not interested in breaking the silence either.

This was a necessary hour.

I need nature as much as my daily medication. They are equal partners in the dance that helps me remain myself. I had been aching and soul-weary. Now I am refreshed and renewed. Would that all days could begin this way.